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French motor racing

France has always had a close relationship with motor racing. Whether it be the drivers it has produced, the races it has hosted or the manufacturers that have produced the cars, all the factors have come together to make the sport keenly followed by French people.

The French Grand Prix was first hosted in 1906 at the Les Mans race track in the north of the country as the French automobile industry wanted to create a race where manufacturers were not limited with the number of cars they entered. This was the first grand prix to be staged and it ran for 86 years, taking place at 16 different venues around the country.

Ferenc Szisz at the 1906 Grand Prix

It finished after the 2008 season but has been reinstalled to be run at the Circuit Paul Ricard near to Marseilles in June 2018. The first race was won by the Hungarian Ferenc Szisz driving a Renault, and all of the vehicles were fitted with Michelin tires. The French manufacturer has since gone on to supply many racing events around the world with their tires. In the early years the French manufacturers led the way with the innovations that were being made to the racing cars. Renault have achieved most success at the grand prix, winning it on 6 occasions, but the races were also victorious in the early years for both Bugati and Delage, who later went out of business.

Peugeot also emerged as winners in the early years, and so did Talbot Lago, but they only experienced success until after the Second World War. The Formula 1 competition started in 1958 and one of the early winners of the constructor’s title were Mantra in 1969, who emerged from Champagne-sur Seine and were later taken over by Peugeot.

Renault have continued to be competitive and they won the constructors’ titles in both 2005 and 2006. They were led by the Spaniard Fernando Alonso who won the driver’s title in both of those seasons. The French have also produced their own world class drivers. and few have achieved greater success than Alain Prost. Prost started racing in formula one in 1980 and in total he competed in 203 races during a career that finally ended in 1993. He won 51 races and finished on the podium 106 times. He won the driver’s championship on four occasions and his rivalry with Ayrton Senna often resulted in controversy and sometimes even collisions.

Alain Prost with his Renault

Another successful driver was Jaques Laffite who competed in formula one between 1974 and 1986. He drove for the Ligier team. The French manufacture was owned by the former French Rugby Union player Guy Ligier who played for the national army side plus rowed for the French team.

Laffite won 6 races in his career, competed in 176 and finished on the podium 32 times, with his best season coming in 1979 when he came 4th in the race for the driver’s title. After finishing in Formula 1, he raced touring cars and is now pursuing a successful career as a commentator for French television. Although the French Grand Prix has not been held in the past decade, the Monaco Grand Prix is one of the most popular races each year in the competition. The principality has been hosting the race since 1929 and is one of the few that has the cars competing on normal roads. It is seen alongside the Indianapolis 500 and the Le Mans 24-hour race as one of the most prestigious races in the world.

The Le Mans 24-hour race is for cars with 2 seats, 2 doors and a roof. It is a test of endurance and has been run at the French venue since 1923. The venue holds up to 100,000 spectators and is popularly followed by French motor racing fans when it is held each year in June.

Motor racing is one of the most popular sports in France and has many events to satisfy the nation’s interests.